It’s no secret: Technology is changing the way we explore the world, and our relationship with it.
Here’s Traveler magazine’s take on ten new developments that are making it easier for travelers to see more of our extraordinary planet, with a softer ecological impact:
1. Liquid Gold: Inventor Dean Kamen’s ingenious Slingshot water purifier could be the answer to bringing clean water to some of the 738 million people in the world who don’t have it—and to travelers whose use of it puts an extra burden on developing areas.
2. The Big Picture: One-shot, 360° photo technology will change how we document our travels. New or in-development omnidirectional cameras by Ricoh and Giroptic capture, with one click, panoramic images that smartphone cameras can’t yet record. The next generation? Affordable omnidirectional video cameras.
3. Twist for the Wrist: The Pebble smartwatch, which syncs via Bluetooth to smartphones and displays texts, tweets, caller ID, and other bits of information, is paving the way for wearable computing. The watch can be customized with downloadable watch faces and Internet apps, including ones to control your music or track your running pace and distance. An Apple iWatch is reportedly in the works, too.
4. Hail Yes!: Controversial in some cities, e-hailing apps are on the move. Taxi Magic provides reliable tracking, Sidecar takes on ride-sharing, and WOW Taxi has the first platform for booking wheelchair-ready cabs in Manhattan. That’s no mean feat in a city of 13,000 taxis—only 233 of which handle wheelchairs.
5. Spectacular Spectacles: With the potential to change the way we travel, access information, and experience destinations, Google Glass now takes the form of augmented-reality eyewear that projects data (addresses, e-mails, images) in a small LCD, visible only to the wearer; this technology will eventually translate to contact lenses. Looking backward, Past View augmented-reality video goggles show images of long-gone structures as you tour a city (currently available in Seville, Spain).
6. Stick It to Me: Utah-based Chamtech Enterprises has developed a Wi-Fi sticker for laptops and cellphones. The bandwidth-enhancer is loaded with thousands of nanoparticles that are capable of boosting a device’s signal strength.
7. Dig It?: Scientists such as National Geographic Explorer Albert Yu-Min Lin use satellite imagery and infrared scans to search for buried pyramids in Egypt or Genghis Khan’s tomb in Mongolia without invasive digging. What they find may be our next travel hot spot.
8. Cash Out: Mobile-commerce apps such as Square, which works in tandem with a credit card reader, simplify transactions, turning smartphones into a tool for buying, selling, or receiving receipts. If transactional kinks get fixed, digital peer-to-peer currencies like bitcoin could let you bypass banks entirely.
9. Fast Pass: Your next passport could be your smartphone. Apple and other tech giants are developing traveler-focused systems that could replace a paper passport with a digital one, which would store personal identification data, boarding passes, and reservations. Fingerprint immigration checkpoints in Singapore have already proven that biometrics are the secret to hassle-free arrival.
10. Share Economy: Campinmygarden.com lists yards where travelers can pitch a tent. Spinlister.com helps visitors rent bikes from locals for as little as ten dollars a day. Emerging apps ParkatmyHouse and Park Circa offer parking spots at homes and businesses.
George W. Stone is an editor at large at National Geographic Traveler magazine.
Do you know about a tech development that’s changing the way we travel? Share your insider intel with the Intelligent Travel community by leaving a comment.